Who was Benjamin Wegerzyn? Meet the namesake of Wegerzyn Gardens

Wegerzyn Gardens, part of the Five Rivers MetroParks, is a popular destination to see formal gardens, hike on boardwalk wetland trails, or tend to a plot of their own vegetables and flowers in the community garden. Their is also a Children’s Discovery Garden for little ones to play and explore.

Credit: Jan Underwood

Credit: Jan Underwood

One person stands out for making this all possible: Benjamin Wegerzyn.

In May 1967, Dayton had just completed a master plan for development of DeWeese Park. Wegerzyn of Wayne Twp. a millionaire who loved flowers, stepped up with a donation.

In a 1967 story from the Dayton Journal Herald, Wegerzyn called himself an amateur gardener.

“I do my own gardening,” he said. “I like to get out in the fresh air and I like to walk. I try to keep physically active.

“I felt there should be some kind of space in or near the middle of town for the public’s enjoyment.”

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

Wegerzyn donated 1,000 shares of Xerox stock valued then at $295,000 for the construction of a flower conservatory. Interest rates later boosted the gift to $361,000.

Jackson Perry, Dayton’s deputy director of human resources at the time, said Wegerzyn decided to make his donation after reading about the garden center in the Dayton Daily News.

One of the conditions attached to the donation was that it should bear his name in the title and a bronze plaque should be placed prominently in the building identifying him as donor.

The Commission quickly drafted a resolution accepting Wegerzyn’s gift.



Wegerzyn, who disliked being in the spotlight, specifically asked that the announcement of his gift be made while he was out of town.

As plans progressed over the years, Wegerzyn realized the funds on hand would not produce the kind of conservatory he had hoped for, so he transferred his funds to the building of a garden center. Garden clubs raised another $125,000, and the building was dedicated on Oct. 31, 1973.

Wegerzyn Gardens began in 1973 as the Benjamin Wegerzyn Horticultural Center and in 1995 became part of Five Rivers MetroParks.

By 1979 about 3,000 people rented 1,173 garden plots in the park for $10 each. The center provided free rototillers, fertilizer, water and security, The Garden Plot Rentals continue to this day.

A former neighbor said that he loved flowers and gardening and spent a lot of time sprucing up the yard around his home.

“I live a very quietly and enjoy the simple pleasures of life,” said Wegerzyn. “I don’t belong to organizations. Even though I spent 11 to 12 years in military service I don’t belong to a veterans organization.”

Wegerzyn remained involved with the center up to his death in 1997.

Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark is free and open to the public virtually year-round. The park is located at 1301 E Siebenthaler Ave, Dayton, OH 45414. More information about Wegerzyn and its programs can be found at http://www.metroparks.org/wegerzyn.

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